No better time than now
  |  First Published: April 2010

I’m hoping to have some time off myself this month to get into some serious fishing and I don’t intend to stray far from home unless the weather drives me away.

Recent weeks have produced mostly stable Autumn weather and whether you’re interested in estuary, surf or offshore action, there’s been plenty to catch and the promise of even better this month. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a better time to wet a line in these parts.

Mind you, after a relatively dry few months, May 2009 produced an east coast low that smashed the Richmond valley from the headwaters to the coast, resulting in moderate to major flooding and severe coastal erosion, so this is still a time when anything can happen and often does.

The best mackerel season for a couple of decades should continue to produce fish as long as there’s no chocolate-brown floodwater to send the fish packing.

As is so typical with mackerel, they can be fickle one day and suicidal the next, so it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time to experience the highs. When they’ve been hot, it’s just a matter of having a bait or lure in the water and I can still recall catching them on bare ganged hooks rapidly cranked back to the boat to be re-baited.

Then there are those calm days when the spotties are swarming around the transom, wolfing down chunks of berley and studiously ignoring any carrying hooks, no matter how small or cunningly rigged. Those times, they’ll often circle a live bait set out under a float until the hapless livie dies of fright, then they’ll swim away, seemingly snickering quietly among themselves.

You can try something totally different, like blisteringly fast retrieves with 20g Lazer Slugs or casting (or even quickly trolling) small poppers or small plastics. That might work at times, but a change in sea conditions will usually be the trigger for better feeding.


You could also be rewarded spending time chasing snapper this month, with increasing numbers of reds visiting the mackerel reefs especially at dawn and dusk.

Some of the most attractive mixed bags from the inshore reefs happen around now, with the silver mackerel decked out in spots or stripes, the dazzling blue spots on the pink snapper and the dark and light chocolate flanks of the cobia accompanying the first of the migrating humpback whales.

Throw in the odd grassy, red-throat or spangled emperor, a pearl perch or two and maybe a decent lump of a kingie and it’s hard to imagine a better bag of offshore fish from anywhere in NSW.


The fun continues along the beaches, headlands and breakwalls, where early indications point to a resurgence in Winter tailor numbers after a 2009 season that was patchy at best.

There have been greenback tailor to 5kg caught already from the headlands around Lennox Head and Byron and the breakwalls at Ballina and Brunswick Heads and there’s the promise of more to come over the next month or so. Naturally, the bigger fish are being taken at night on slab baits but the dusk and dawn sessions are yielding some very respectable choppers, too.

I’ve scaled down my surf gear this season, enabling me to still cast smaller metal, hard or soft lures the required distances, and I’ve been very impressed at the results. A recent session casting small chrome spoons into rocky washes yielded tailor to 2kg, bream to around a kilo, some chunky tarwhine, soapie jew and even the odd nice dart.

There should be plenty more of the same for beach fishos this May, along with flathead and some far more substantial jewfish. Just concentrate your efforts around the bait schools that should be coming through in healthy numbers.

A series of freshes has meant that most of the estuary action is in the last few kilometres and that’s where it would have been this month regardless.

Mullet and bream will be heading for the breeding grounds just off the river mouths and already there have been some blackfish schools moving along the coastline.

Bass and estuary perch are on their spawning pilgrimage to more saline parts and we can expect them to figure in estuary encounters over coming months. This month you might be able to keep these fish if you’re among the few so inclined, but they’re illegal to possess from June to August.

It would probably make sense if a few other species were offered protection while they too were spawning but don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

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